Wake Forest celebrates Earth Month

The Office of Sustainability is focusing on interdisciplinary education for this year’s Earth Month celebration


Courtesy of the Office of Sustainability

Features covered many events, such as Earth Month.

Una Wilson, Assistant Features Editor

 You might be an artist, or maybe you enjoy dancing. Perhaps you are an entrepreneur, a business owner or an engineer. You may be a poet, a film critic, a chef, a question-asker, a leader, a learner — all of these interests, and many more, have a place in Earth Month. 

The Office of Sustainability is focusing its annual, month-long celebration on interdisciplinary education about sustainability and the environment. From discussions on environmental racism and redlining to a second-hand fashion show, the events of this year’s Earth Month were intentionally spread across many disciplines. 

Earth Month began with the Spring Equinox Festival at the Campus Garden on March 20 and will end on Earth Day, which is this Friday, April 22. In order to feature programming from all sides of campus, the typical day-long celebration of Earth Day was stretched into a month, according to Director of the Office of Sustainability Lindsey Batchelor. 

“The intent of having Earth Month is that we are not just hosting events put on by the Office of Sustainability,” Batchelor said. “We wanted an Earth Month full of programming that comes at sustainability from lots of different angles because there truly is a place for everybody in environmentalism; they just need to be given the opportunity to see it. The theme of this year’s Earth Month is education. My hope is that, through some of these events, students are exposed to something new relating to sustainability, or maybe they are given a new way of thinking about it. We wanted to make it both expansive, and inclusive.”

Most of the 25 Earth Month events were created in conjunction with other campus organizations, including the Office of Civic and Community Engagement, The Office of Wellbeing, the Intercultural Center, the Women’s Center and the LGBTQ+ Center. 

The Office of Sustainability‘s Communications and Events intern and senior Sophia Masciarelli was especially enthusiastic about the campus organizations her office partnered with to make some of the events happen. 

“I really love the diverse range of partnerships we have this year; there’s an opportunity for anybody to get involved,” Masciarelli said.

Banner painting, for example, was a collaborative event between the Office of Sustainability, the Intercultural Center, the Women’s Center and the LGBTQ+ Center. On Tuesday, April 12, campus clubs and groups of friends gathered in Manchester Plaza to paint a banner inspired by women who have shaped global environmental movements. The banners were hung around the quad beginning Monday, April 18 and will be left up until the last day of class. 

The intersection between the arts and sustainability was explored further in Wayward Fashion’s Sustainable Fashion show at SECCA on Friday, April 8. President of Wayward Fashion and sophomore Alyse Harris said that she hoped the fashion show could highlight the ways that sustainability can pervade in all kinds of personal expression. 

“Sustainability has a place in fashion too,” Harris said. “I was so proud of the models and vendors for showing off how interesting and personal supporting the environment can be.”

In a series of TED-style presentations, the Office of Sustainability’s signature event, Earth Talks, covered a wide range of topics from mycorrhizal fungi to the environmental racism revealed by the Weaver Fertilizer fire. Senior Julia McElhinny gave an Earth Talk about the importance of environmental education for middle and high school children. As an Environmental Education intern for the Office of Sustainability, sharing her passion for teaching kids about energy and sustainability through the nonprofit organization, Piedmont Environmental Alliance, was an invaluable experience. 

“I wanted to bring attention to something people don’t think about when they talk about climate change, McElhinny said. “How can we move forward with beneficial environmental policies if we aren’t educating the generation of kids that come after us? Participating in Earth Talks was a way to share this really important issue with the rest of campus. As a science major, I wanted people to know that you can be in STEM and also work with nonprofit organizations, you can be a scientist and engage in the environmental movement in an interdisciplinary way.”

Office of Sustainability Assistant Coordinator of Sustainability Engagement Brian Cohen started Earth Talks last year during Earth Month and was thrilled to see how the event has grown since. 

“With our focus on education for this year’s month, I think the diversity of topics that Earth Talks covered this year really offered unique perspectives that even I was interested to learn about,” Cohen said. 

Batchelor echoed Cohen’s enthusiasm: “Faculty are constantly presenting and hosting talks for students; now, it is time to hand the microphone over to the students and let them speak their passions to us.” 

Social groups were also involved with Earth Month programming. The first-ever Greeks Go Green Fair was held on Tuesday, April 12 in Manchester Plaza. A vegan food truck provided over 100 people with vegan hotdogs as they meandered through the sororities and fraternities’ tents. All told, 13 Greek life organizations participated in the event. Office of Sustainability intern Paige Bryan organized the event. She emphasized the importance of social change influencing the likelihood of people buying into the environmental movement. 

“Social change can impact the way that people act and behave, especially when it comes to sustainability,” Bryan said. “So much of fighting climate change comes down to governmental regulations. However, if we don’t have the social norms of what more sustainable behaviors and actions and thought processes are, then how do we expect any kind of policy change to happen? I believe the change starts here, with friends talking about it to other friends and normalizing sustainability for everyone.”

‘Sustainability for everyone’ reaches outside of the sciences and arts as well. Wake Forest’s School of Business hosted its first-ever ESG week between March 28 – April 1, during the Office of Sustainability’s Earth Month. The week included events ranging from guest speakers in sustainable business to an ESG competition for ideas to address environmental, social, or governance-related challenges at the university.

Meanwhile, at the Campus Garden, students huddled around a bonfire and a projector to watch sustainability-related films during Earth Month. Among the movie nights was a showing of short films by award-winning filmmaker and member of the Cherokee Nation Brit Henson. Her work largely explores traditional Cherokee values, language, and her peoples’ connection to land in Oklahoma (former Indian Territory) and in her ancestral homelands of North Carolina (Qualla Boundary). Senior Karl Gustafson helped orchestrate the event. “We wanted to highlight a film producer many people don’t know about, and Brit Henson was recommended to us by Joy Harjo, actually,” Gustafson said. “Each film was only roughly 10 minutes long, so we were able to play a lot of them and look at a broad variety of topics in a short period of time. I think everybody left the event having learned something they weren’t exposed to before.”

Earth Month will end on Friday, April 22, which falls on Earth Day. To end the month-long celebration, the Office of Sustainability is hosting its eighth annual Champions of Change awards ceremony event. This year, students, faculty, and staff will be recognized in a variety of categories, including Resource Conservation, Academics and Engagement, Service and Social Action, Bright Ideas and more.